Kristine Kaiser: Remember the poor among us

Apr. 12, 2013 @ 05:54 PM

I attend Mass in downtown Greensboro. On two separate occasions, after leaving the church, I encountered homeless people. The first man had plastic bags tied to his bicycle; the bags were stuffed and contained his belongings. I passed him just a few minutes after the church service had ended.
Days later, a man was waiting at the crosswalk; he was pushing a grocery cart down the sidewalk.  Both men reminded me of the invisible poor. We read about the poor, but seldom cross their paths. Perhaps that’s why the meetings stuck with me after very many months. I then witnessed people in dire need. I was face to face with the homeless.
Recently, I read an article about how the poor are missing from the national political agenda. Political passion runs high for immigration and gun control. Politicians don’t seem to have concern for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. In fact, the times are against them. Mitt Romney vilified the poor with talk about the 47 percent. Some ideologues don’t seem to care for people who are down on their luck and certainly don’t want them to receive help from the government.
Social programs might lead to big government. The promotion of big government is the greatest crime. Big government is worse than child hunger. Big government is worse than folks being without medicine. Ideological abstractions go before people.
Sadder yet, President Obama discusses the downtrodden at his peril. If he mentions them, he is dubbed a socialist.  If he has compassion, he is tagged an extreme radical. The politics of poverty is mostly heartless, both intentionally and unintentionally.
Middle class people often do not have time for the poor. Poor people do not enter their minds. There are soccer and baseball games to attend. The kids have lessons. There are golf outings. There are literally a million things to think about other than the needy.
The almost poor are suspicious of the poor. They blame them for their plight. They accuse them of receiving something for nothing. The almost poor sometimes think that the needy are lazy. The stagnant economic conditions make it all worse; scarcity breeds contempt.
What can we do? I am keenly aware that my almsgiving is insufficient to help many poor people. While I vote, I have one vote. While I write, my readership is limited. I can remember the poor.
By remembering the poor, I serve them. We honor humanity when we call attention to the poor. Poverty is isolation. Poverty is alienation. People are alone when they are poor; they are not counted. People don’t often encourage those without money or position. The needy are at the margins. They don’t fit so well in a material society.
Pope Francis was right to call attention to the poor. He recognized them in a busy world.  There is nothing worse than indifference. There is little worse than being forgotten. While Pope Francis is concerned with the globe’s needy, he is an opinion-maker. He can lead us to reform attitudes about the poor in our own country and help lend a spotlight on our nation’s poverty. Currently, the poor are too invisible and must be noticed. Let us try to remember the poor in our thoughts and actions. See them always.

Kristine Kaiser is a writer living in Kernersville. Contact her for comments at: Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.